Quint by Robert Lautner

February 4, 2024

Before there was Jaws, there was… QUINT

Fifteen years since I landed on Amity, an island full of rich folks adrift between the Hamptons and Montauk.

Got a business and a boat, got me a truck with my name and a pretty shark scratched on the door. Carved it myself. Bad job.

I got ghosts around me, lot of ghosts. Gotta put ‘em somewhere. Can’t drink ‘em all. Ain’t here for company, and I only got two stories for telling company anyways.

Thinking if I get them stories down, on paper mind, then that’s just between me and the ink.

You already know the end of his story: now find out where it all began. So much more than a fisherman, Quint is a survivor, a fighter, a man who has left three wives in his wake.

From his time as a young sailor facing the horrors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, to a deadly night-long showdown with a frenzy of sharks years later, before he finally settles on the island of Amity.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched Jaws. It could well be my favourite film. If I put my mind to it I could probably recite large chunks of dialogue.  I’ve read Peter Benchley’s novel. I have t-shirts, artwork and even a Jaws tattoo. Hell, the only time I’ve ever visited the United States, I made a pilgrimage to Martha’s Vineyard just so I could take a look at where Jaws was filmed.

In the film, Robert Shaw imbued Quint with a roguish charm. Initially appearing larger than life, you soon come to realise there was a pain at the core of the man. The copious amounts of booze and self-imposed isolation are just a poor attempt on his part to mask a truly broken soul. Robert Lautner’s new novel delves deeper into this tragic character’s backstory.

Quint, the man, is a creature of a different era. Events like The Great Depression and the Second World War have shaped his attitudes. He’s not a hero by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not even sure he is that likeable, to be honest. Words like cantankerous and opinionated spring to mind. I think though, he’d be the first to admit to that. The novel is written in Quint’s distinct cadence and he doesn’t hesitate to offer his thoughts on all manner of subjects, from the banal to the deeply philosophical.

This prequel cements the inevitability of Quint’s ultimate fate. He knows he is never going to die of old age. There is always going to be a reckoning with the events of his past. That sense of impending doom permeates every page. We all know where Quint’s journey is heading and I think he knows it too in his heart of hearts. Like a modern(ish) day Ahab, he is consumed by the primal forces of the ocean.

The narrative is peppered with flashbacks to the events with the USS Indianapolis and in these moments the story devolves into pure psychological horror. Groups of terrified sailors surrounded by death. It’s not just the threat of the opportunistic apex predators in the water but also the risk of dehydration, exhaustion and starvation. The tension the author creates here feels palpable. As the days drag by, death becomes a constant companion. There is little doubt these events left Quint plagued by survivor’s guilt, not that I think for a single moment he would ever admit that out loud.

I was constantly reminded of Robert Shaw’s rivetting monologue in Jaws, where he talks about the terror of suddenly having hope. Just at the point where Quint is preparing for his seemingly inevitable demise, he realises he might just be saved. In that same second, he also recognises he could just as easily still die before help arrives. That thought has always struck me as the textbook definition of fear. To be crippled by a sense of hopelessness, immobilised by the threat of danger.

For the eagle-eyed cinephiles amongst you, there are a few nice little easter eggs to spot. I’ll say no more than that. I have no desire to spoil any surprises.

More than anything I think this novel is the character study of a man who is fundamentally changed by a single life-altering event. Quint is a strong, often overbearing soul who survives a horrific experience but is haunted by it for the rest of his days. Nowadays I guess we call this post-traumatic stress disorder, but back then in the aftermath of the Second World War, the expectation was you survived so just move on.

Quint is a fascinating read and, unsurprisingly, works as a perfect companion piece to its celluloid sibling.

Quint is published by Harper Collins and is available now. Highly recommended.

Phew, I managed to get through my entire review without using the phrase salty sea-dog*…dammit!

*To my eternal shame I did use this expression when I reviewed Jaws. I’m still embarrassed.

Quint cover


No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *